Cancer therapy

One of the most controversial papers – and one of the most exciting – presented at the recent low-carb, high-fat summit in Cape Town was on the metabolic model of cancer presented by Australian orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Gary Fettke.

What does an orthopaedic surgeon know about oncology? Well, lots as it turns out.  Fettke, a senior lecturer at the University of Tasmania, does ongoing research into the role of diet in diabetes, obesity and cancer. He is also a cancer survivor.

A controversial idea, but it’s not new

The metabolic model is not his idea, or even a new idea, though it is still controversial. Doctors and scientists who speak out about it are very quickly branded quacks – a common knee-jerk reaction from establishment elements wedded to conventional scientific wisdom these days. The American Cancer Society says there is ‘no convincing scientific evidence that metabolic therapy is effective in treating cancer’, and some practices ‘may be harmful’. (The latter may be true. The former isn’t.)

The theory behind the therapy is based on the work of German physiologist, medical doctor and Nobel laureate Otto Warburg who died in 1970. It is supported by a growing body of research. In July 2014, US scientists at Dartmouth College Geisel School of Medicine published a study in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, showing that reducing carbohydrate intake could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence among women whose tumour tissue was positive for the IGF-1 receptor. Lead author Dr Jennifer Emond, an instructor in Dartmouth’s department of community and family medicine said, “There is a growing body of research demonstrating associations between obesity, diabetes, and cancer risk.”

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Fettke believes that dietary intervention, in particular a low-carb, high-fat, ‘ketogenic’ diet approach could be the cancer treatment of the future. Here’s a summary I wrote of Fettke’s fascinating presentation to the conference .

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